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Parents see plusses, minuses in tougher test standards

Updated: March 15, 2013 1:35PM

For Becky Malone, who has two children, the impending tougher standards for Illinois state tests are sending the wrong message.

“It’s too much emphasis on these standardization tests, and we’re getting away from interdisciplinary learning and a well-rounded education,” said Malone, whose second- and fourth-graders attend Mount Greenwood Elementary School.

The potential for test preparation to shift to the forefront of elementary and middle-school classrooms is a particular concern for Malone.

“I get that funding for schools and teachers’ jobs depend on [test scores], but if this is what they’re spending their day doing, they’re not getting a well-rounded education. They’re prepping for a test.”

Starting this March, students will take a revamped Illinois Standard Achievement Test. The Illinois State Board of Education said the changes were designed to better prepared for success in high school and beyond. Both the test and the evaluation of whether the student meets state standards will become more challenging.

Sarah Liebman, with two children at Oscar Mayer Magnet School, was shocked to hear about the changes, but she said that holding kids to a higher standard will be a positive move.

“I think they’re a good thing for the long run, for the future of my children’s education,” said Liebman, 43.

Another sticking point for Malone is that a new test will take ISAT’s place in the 2014-2015 school year: the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. This test will compare the scores of Illinois students with their peers around the country.

“I have no problem with more rigor and higher standards, but to implement this now and suggest that it’s a preparation for another test that’s going to be completely different in its content, I don’t understand it,” Malone said. “I’m not sure where they’re coming from other than to cause more problems for our kids and for our teachers.”

Liebman said this type of cross-country comparison is a good and positive thing, but she — like many parents and teachers — questions the power of a test to measure a child’s knowledge.

“I think there can be a lot of pressure on that and I don’t feel like they accurately assess the whole child and the child’s full potential,” Liebman said.

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